Moths and Healing

We really can learn a lot from bugs!  Consider the lowly moth.  Usually not so glorious in color as its better loved cousin the butterfly, moths nonetheless can teach brilliantly about light and truth. 

“Like a moth to the flame,” we say to describe seemingly uncontrollable actions in the name of love or desire.  The expression often carries with it a sense of pathos.  Poor moth, unable to resist the fire that would destroy it!  And yet, there’s something admirable in that kind of one-pointed devotion to the light.  It reminds us of the potential we all have for true healing through love and Oneness. 

Shortly after we moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 2002, we learned that in May and June, moths overrun the entire town.  Screens and adobe walls do little to deter these shiny grey intruders, and every morning meant awakening to glitter on our pillows.  And sheets. And floors.  And windows.  Moths, pressed against our screens!  Moths on the counters.  Antennae and wings streaked across our bathroom floor from accidental nightime tramplings.

Still recovering from a brain injury,  I found the whole scene maddening.  They flitted in my peripheral vision, teasing eyes that preferred to shut out a world which no longer made much sense.  Anything that moved or flickered bothered me in ways a healhty person cannot fathom.  It felt like pieces of my soul were tickling me with stinging nettle.  My neck would spasm as my eyes twitched, trying to interpret a fluttering world.  I’d grow dizzy and the room would spin.  If my surroundings did not stay completely static, then I felt sick.  All change was bad change, and I had literally developed tunnel vision as a way to cope.

Night after night, I sat at my little writer’s desk, tense with the prospect of grey moths dive bombing my face.  It’s not like I could write for more than 15 minutes anyway!  My eyes would pulse into a migraine after a short time of visual stimulation.  I resented these moths for taking my preciously small amount of visual attention and wasting it!  I wanted them OUT of our house, but every evening more and more appeared. 

Killing them, even if I’d wanted to, meant a gruesome, sticky mess, and so I became obsessed with catching them.  My first night of moth hunting, I only captured a single moth, and it took me three hours to do so.  I chased dozens of moths around the house holding a glass in one hand and a postcard in the other, determined to trap and release.  They made a game of it, lighting on the wall just long enough for me to aim, but not long enough to pounce.  My impaired brain and visual function definitely left me at a disadvantage.  Through tears, I swore the moths were mocking me.

Finally, after hours of missed opportunities, I managed to land a glass on the wall above a moth.  I carefully slid the postcard under the lip and triumphantly showed my now-husband. 

“What are you going to do with it?” he asked, somewhat bemused. 

“Put it outside,” I exclaimed, throwing open the door, at which time ten more moths enterred our home.  I fought and lost the battle with tears of frustration.

“That’s enough for tonight,” said Stephen, giving me a hug.  “You need to rest up for tomorrow.”

Practically sulking, I went to bed and had an exceptionally good night’s sleep.  I awoke the next morning to the usual glitter and wings, but somehow I felt a little more relaxed.  … Until that evening, when the moths began their nightly blitzkrieg.  This time I developed a strategy.  I would follow one or two around the entire house, wearing them down so that they couldn’t dart away from me at the last moment.  

The moths moved fast around my head, reminding me of Wolfe Pursuits–an exercise from my old days of vision therapy.  Three times a week, I had needed to go to the behavioral optometrist’s office, wear prism glasses and follow two curved handles with little silver balls on the end, expertly guided by trained vision therapists.  The goal was to line up the silver balls without shifting my eyes from their smooth flowing motions.  While doing this, I had to concentrate on the entire room as well, because my doctor would sneak up on me to ask, “What color shirt is Willy wearing today?  Who’s behind you?  How far to your right is this chair?” If I turned my head, I had to start over.  

These moths zoomed in front of my face like the silver balls, leaving tracers in their wake.  “This is trippy,” I told Stephen, who continued to look bemused.  That night, I could have caught both moths, but I had forgotten the glasses in the kitchen!  This strategy required more planning than I’d anticipated (no surprise since my sequential reasoning remained severely impaired). 

I was about to quit, but Stephen said, “You give up too easily.”  Well, that made me mad!  Damn moths, I muttered below my breath.  Making me chase you around the whole damn house.  Fluttering around my face.  Ha!  I snagged one on the curtain and quickly realized I had forgotten the postcards.  “Can you please bring me an envelope?” I asked.  Stephen did. 

Once I captured moth number 1, Stephen asked, “What are you going to do with it?” 

“Put it in the kitchen until tomorrow morning,” I said, recalling what had happened the night before.  I actually felt proud of myself for that forethought!  “And now I’m going to catch one more before I go to bed.”  Armed with a glass and postcard, I managed to trap moth number 2 much faster.  I set the second glass by the first and went to bed, feeling the sweet exhaustion of a well exercised body and brain.  In the morning, I released the moths outside, remembering to close the screen door so they would not immediately reenter our house.

This process continued each night for weeks, until I got so good at catching and releasing moths that I ran out of glasses, mugs and cups.  In the morning, our whole walkway would be lined with every container from our kitchen as I ritualistically removed the paper lids and let the creatures go.  “Wow,” said Stephen, “You’ve really gotten good at this.”

“Yep,” I agreed, smiling.  I also felt good.  Due to finances, I had had to quit visual therapy before healing all the way.  Chasing moths reintegrated my vision and brain with surprisingly similar methods.  No, I didn’t have prism glasses, but I did learn to follow moving objects with my eyes instead of my head while paying attention to the entire room. My horribly dimished peripheral field re-opened because I needed it to catch the moths.  (They were tricky!)  My sequential reasoning improved as I spent hours trying to outsmart these furry little insects, and my balance returned by practicing launches and then steadying myself until I could slide a postcard over the glass.

By the time I realized what was happening, moth season ended, but my healing had already solidified.  “Is that why you wouldn’t ever help me catch them?” I demanded.  Stephen just smiled.  To this day, I thank those moths for giving me the discipline and freedom to pursue the treatment I so desperately needed at the time.  And I thank Stephen for his smiles.  He always has liked bugs!

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